An aneurysm is a bulging or ballooning in the wall of a blood vessel greater than 50% wider than normal. It can occur in any blood vessel, but most commonly happens in an artery. A ruptured aneurysm is a life-threatening medical emergency.
Small aneurysms often cause no symptoms, so it’s possible to have one for years and remain unaware of it. Cardiologist Nader Chadda, MD, and the team at Advanced Heart and Vascular Associates specialize in diagnosing and treating aneurysms at their offices in Brooksville, Hudson, and Land O’ Lakes, Florida.
If you’ve received an aneurysm diagnosis, you may be wondering about the cause. Various factors increase the likelihood of developing an aneurysm. In this post we discuss those factors in greater detail.
How does an aneurysm develop?
An aneurysm develops when the wall of an artery weakens. This often happens at areas where blood vessels fork or branch off. An area near the fork may weaken and become thin, causing the section to bulge outward.
An aneurysm may develop in several areas of the body, such as the brain, neck, intestines, and kidneys. Here at Advanced Heart and Vascular Associates, Dr. Chadda specializes in treating aortic aneurysms and aneurysms that develop in the blood vessels in the legs (iliac, femoral, and popliteal aneurysms). The aorta is the largest artery in the body. It carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Who is more likely to develop an aneurysm?
Factors that cause artery walls to break down and weaken increase the chances of developing an aneurysm. The following are some of the most common factors that contribute to aneurysm development.
High blood pressure
Untreated or poorly controlled hypertension is a risk factor for aneurysms. When the heart is working too hard, blood pressure increases, and this excess force against artery walls can cause them to weaken, paving the way for an aneurysm. If you have hypertension, it’s imperative to seek and follow treatment to bring your blood pressure within a less risky range and keep it there.
Known medically as hyperlipidemia, high cholesterol results in higher-than-normal fats and fat-like substances circulating in your bloodstream. This puts your heart and blood vessels in danger. Excess cholesterol accumulates in and damages artery walls, which causes a host of problems including hardening, narrowing, and weakening of the artery walls. When this happens you’re at risk for serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, and aneurysms.
Untreated or inadequately treated diabetes is a major factor in arterial damage. While glucose is your body’s primary fuel source, levels in the blood must remain tightly controlled. Higher than normal blood sugar damages the lining of artery walls throughout the body. This can wreak havoc on your vascular system, damaging blood vessels that deliver oxygenated blood to your organs.
Diabetes can damage small blood vessels that serve the kidneys and eyes, causing eye and kidney disease. This same damage can lead to aneurysms.
Smoking is a major risk factor for a host of heart and vascular problems. Chemicals in tobacco damage blood vessels and cause arteries to harden, weaken, develop plaque, and narrow. Approximately 70-80% of people who develop aneurysms are current or former smokers, according to research.
Even if you don’t smoke and don’t have diabetes or high blood pressure, your weight could put you at risk. Carrying excess weight puts stress on nearly every system in your body, including your blood vessels.
People with obesity are at an increased risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The aorta runs through the chest and abdomen. Central obesity, that is, excess fat in the abdominal area can weaken the section of the aorta that runs through the abdomen, raising the risk for an aneurysm in this area.
Genetic factors that govern the structure of your blood vessels can contribute to aneurysm development. If someone in your immediate family has an aneurysm, your chances of developing an aneurysm increase.
An aneurysm requires care from a specialist. With the right care you can protect your heart and blood vessels so you can live a long, healthy life. Take the first step by calling or sending a message to one of our offices to schedule an appointment. We offer in-person and telehealth appointments to meet all of your cardiovascular needs.